French Open results 2022: Rafael Nadal sweats, uses sawdust vs Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal was taking an out-of-the-box approach to gain any edge he could before Alexander Zverev went down with a sickening injury.

Rafael Nadal said he would “prefer to lose Sunday’s final” in exchange for a new left foot after making his 14th French Open decider.

Nadal reached the final after Alexander Zverev was forced to retire from their last-four clash on Saturday (AEST) with an ankle injury.

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Nadal, the 13-time champion, will be chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday but has insisted throughout this Roland Garros that a chronic left foot injury means any match could be the last of his standout career.

“Without a doubt, I’d prefer to lose the final,” said Nadal who turned 36 on Friday.

“My opinion does not change. A new foot would allow me to be happier in my daily life.

“Winning is very nice and gives you an adrenaline rush, but it’s temporary and then you have to go on living.

“I have a life ahead of me and in the future I would love to play sports with my friends. My happiness goes ahead of any title.”

Nadal was struggling big-time before Zverev went down. Against the odds, the Spaniard won the first set in a tiebreak and was keeping the German honest in the second despite being well below his best in what was looming as a marathon slugfest.

The humid conditions didn’t help. Nadal, as he is known to do, was sweating up a storm and even had to resort to putting what tennis fans described as sawdust on his hands, to prevent the racquet slipping out of his grasp entirely.

It came after Nadal told the umpire he was “trying” to go faster, as he struggled with wiping his hands free of sweat between points, causing a slight delay.

Matt Roberts of The Tennis Podcast suggested Nadal was “not even putting a ball in his pocket sometimes because of the sweat”.

Nadal will face Casper Ruud on Sunday after he beat Croatian veteran Marin Cilic in the other semi-final.

Meanwhile, Nadal said it was only “human” of him to feel sympathy for Zverev after the injury which forced him to retire from the semi-final.

The world number three was in tears and had to leave the court in a wheelchair after his fall late in the second set which left him writhing and screaming in agony.

When he hobbled back on to Court Philippe Chatrier on crutches to concede the match, the two men shared a warm embrace.

“If you are human, you feel sorry for a colleague,” said Nadal.

“It’s not easy to talk about. I hope that he’s not too badly injured, I hope it’s not broken.

“I was with him when he was having the ultrasound.”

The match was played under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, creating heavy humid conditions with 15,000 spectators looking on.

However, Nadal said the court was not in a bad shape.

“It was an accident, it was just an unlucky moment.”

Nadal hailed Zverev’s performance as the German attempted to become the first German man to make the final since Michael Stich in 1996.

“It was a very tough match. He was playing amazing and I know how much it means to him to win a Grand Slam,” Nadal said.

“The conditions were not ideal for me. I had to do a lot of surviving. The first set was a miracle but I was fighting.”

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